Santa Fe has seen in the last month an act of unique and open-hearted political courage and an example of dumbfounding intolerance when it comes to same-sex marriage and the civil rights of all persons in our state.
Governor Martinez’s vetoing of a bill to help same-sex domestic partners of military personnel expedite acquiring professional licenses to carry on their careers when they return to the poorest state in the union is so blatantly bigoted it’s hard to fathom in the 21st century.
But then to turn around and sign a bill that would help heterosexual military families do the same thing – that’s a piece of homophobic nastiness of the first order.
Is it possible that our governor actually harbors such prejudices, or that her political advisors would think she could get away politically with something so socially insensitive, culturally blind, and cruel?
And it could well haunt her in the next election, and might be the margin with which independents defeat her.
I think libertarians, for instance, would understand exactly what happened. She lifted potential roadblocks for one class of people, and, in effect, set them in concrete another class of people. That’s Jim Crow law for homophobes. And some libertarians, at least, see such acts as an example of a government gone crazy with power.
And it makes issues of same-sex marriage and same-sex unions more politically potent than ever in New Mexico, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down certain portions of the Defense of Marriage Act this June and effectively shelves California’s anti-gay marriage ban known as Prop.8.
But then, in what seems like an equal but opposite reaction to the Governor’s veto, the Santa Fe City Council, backed by City Attorney Geno Zamora, passed a resolution 5-3 that supports same-sex marriage in New Mexico. The council opted for human rights.
I’ve come to think of April in Santa Fe as the month of contradiction. Far from cancelling each other out, the governor and the city council have created what could be an early skirmish over a decisive issue in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue that has wide ranging consequences for many New Mexico families, as does any conflict concerning the validity of the basic principle of equal justice under law.
If the U.S. Supreme Court does turn the issue of same-sex marriage over to the states, Santa Fe City Attorney Geno Zamora has already laid the groundwork for a compelling argument that would give same-sex couples the an equal chance at the joy of marriage and at the serious governmental rights and advantages that it bestows on both spouses.
Zamora wrote in a memo to the City Council that “Since New Mexico does not define marriage as between a man and a woman, and since New Mexico does not prohibit same-sex marriage, same sex-marriage is permitted in New Mexico.”
This opinion sets the battleground for an electoral and legislative clash next year that will, I think, see New Mexico as joining the growing historical momentum in the United States to see opposition to same-sex marriage for what it is – homophobic bigotry that has no place in American culture nor in the American legal system.